Argo

Let me begin by saying, that this film was by far, one of the most original film stories I have viewed in a while and, bonus: it was executed brilliantly. Not only was it related to a part of history that I only vaguely, it was bizarre enough to capture my attention. Simply put – it was a world created from reality, but completely separate from my reality.

The main character was both complex and credible – something I look for in a good film. In fact, all the actors were to some degree, a little complex and most definitely credible. Each and every character and/or social group had some form of justification for their actions and behaviour – whether it be the the ‘hostages’, the dear inhabitants of Hollywood or the classic CIA officers. In particular, the presentation of the population of the population of Iran was balanced (or as balanced as it could have been) and whole – completely contrasting the constant demonising and fear inspiring depicition of them in the media.

Needless to say, its win at the Oscars for Best Picture was surprised and shocking to most. I think what made this film stand out amongst the pack was its balance. Although it was a serious film, it had just the right does of suspense, comedy and irony, creating a fast paced film of depth , meaning credibility (on a human level) and action – who doesn’t love a good car/plane chase? :)

Overall, a wonderful story with a touch of sci -fi for good measure. I hope you have/will enojy it as much as I did!

Zero Dark Thirty

Prior to watching Zero Dark Thirty, I had no knowledge or background of the film or its subject – except that it was directed by Kathryn Bigelow, that the lead was Jessica Chastain, and that it was somehow related to Osama Bin Laden.

Post-watching this film, I realised just how poorly equipped I was to watch the shocking spectacle that was, this film.

The opening scene was not really a scene at all, but rather, a sequence of voices, overlapping, distorted, blurred, and to be perfectly honest, utterly confusing. However, I think that’s what the director was hoping to achieve – a true representation of the chaos and horror that terrorism creates.

Having not watched a single Bigelow film preceding this one (namely – The Hurt Locker) I was caught unaware, in witnessing such brutal raw violence. Although some may disagree, I don’t believe it was gratuitous, but rather, acted as a driving necessity for the maintenance of the pace and intensity of this film. The lack of exaggerated editing and non-diegetic music allowed the meaning and reality of torture and helped me realise its place not as a glorification of torture, but rather a truth and as presented – a means to an end. It also helped that these scenes focussed featured heavily on the distraught reactions of Maya, played by Jessica Chastain – and further amplified the humanness (and consequentially, the inhumanness) of the act.

As for Ms. Jessica Chastain herself – I found she gave quite an astute and sustained performance throughout and despite, of all the tumultuous chaos of her character’s ‘hunt’ and  as an actress, brought an insight of character, producing a credible, human story – supported by the evidently incredible director Kathryn Bigelow.

It is the human story, amongst all the contextual details, that allowed me to fully appreciate this film. Although predictable, the unconventional story-telling techniques employed in this film are what set it apart. Emotions were evoked not only in the dialogue (as is normality) but rather in the pronounced body language of the actors once again, creating  room for multi-layered interpretation and a meaning that is not clear or explicit but fascinating.

Overall, an extremely intelligent, clever representation of a very unclear reality. I cannot say that I thoroughly enjoyed it, nor can I say it was particularly thought provoking however it is smart, unrefined (in a good way) and above all, VERY good entertainment.

1984 :: George Orwell

After reading Fahrenheit 451 and really enjoying the profound questions it raised, I decided to pick up a copy of George Orwell’s 1984. As a novel, I would place in the category of: the-books-that-are-really-really-really-boring-for-the-first-75-pages-but-get-more-and-more-interesting-as-you-go-along. It is highly political and in my opinion, delves deep into human nature and psychology quite early on in the novel.

The writing itself,  is descriptive and intelligent and yet, quite well constrained in its depiction of London – and fittingly so as it reflected the views of the ‘heretics’ of the 1984 society.

As a modern reader, with modern views on freedom, peace and war (the core contradictions of the Party) I felt like one of Winston Smith’s kind – opposed to the Party’s ways – and a companion of sorts. Of course, this also encompassed the feeling of pride in the main character and his devotion to the supposed Brotherhood. Now, I realise that this presentation of the world that Orwell created was a rather intelligent one, and the well-established link between the myself and Winston Smith (of the novel) was what drove me to read the novel, until the very end – possibly because reading further would perhaps, be alike to reading one’s destiny – and don’t we all yearn to know the secrets of our future? :)

Further along the storyline, he betrays to these values and moreover, he betrays himself and his opinions. Now, instead of  evoking the expected sense of treachery among the audience, it instead, hold an air of inevitability – brought by the thorough and gradual breaking down of the character.  And so, our ‘hero’, Winston Smith, is not really a hero at all, but a standard human with human flaws and desires – a quality that I think, makes this science fiction tale, one of credibility. It allowed me to empathise and truly understand his pain and weakness – eventually lending myself to forgiveness.

What fascinated me the most, was the extent of power and intelligence of the Party. Orwell seems to have combined his political knowledge and perception of human nature as well as human psychology to create a virtually invincible authority. However frightening and fearful it may be, it was unanimously successful in its objective – maintain immortality of power within itself. The depth of the Party’s ideology is astounding and as presented by Orwell, appears infallible. It is as if he is saying, it is here, among the power and the fear, that perfection is found – in the eyes of the Party and its subjects. This idea resonated with me – the idea that perfection can be seen if shown in the correct light – is one that can still be applied to today.

At its core, 1984 is truly centred around Winston Smith and his human journey through hope and belief and his subsequent loss of everything we deem to be human. I, being a person who can be totally absorbed by psychology for hours on ends, cannot even understand how this book changed my perspective on the future and my future but at this moment, it is safe to say that it did – and I am happy for it :)

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close :: Jonathan Safran Foer

I ALWAYS read the book before I watch the novel – almost since I could remember…

until a few weeks ago.

I rented Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close and expected quite a good film. What I wasn’t prepared for was the sheer volume of tears I shed during the course of the film and afterwards. Astounded by the emotional scope of the film, I decided to ask Lord Google if in fact it was bassed on a book and sure enough, it was. Not only was it a book, but my I recalled a friend of mine recommending it to me. And so, I ventured to the library and came home with a copy.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close :: Book Cover

It took me a while to finish it, mainly because at times, the book was often uneventful but I did end up finishing it end I found it quite an enriching experience. Before I go any further, for those who haven’t read the book or watched the movie, here is a good synopsis.

I found it quite interesting that the book had multiple perspective and at the beginning, their unrelatedness was very confusing and frustrating – especially for me as I have an obsessive need to organise and connect things I learn :) This technique was novel to me at the time that I read it and I found that once the stories did connect, it gave me a better understanding of the individuals within the text. It also helped me realise the relationship between experience and personality (in this post) and I found that it helped make the characters seem more real, by including both their flaws and their positive attributes in an unbiased voice.

The writing voice and style of this novel captured the feelings and thoughts that often, we can’t express through simple words. Emotions that are too complex for organised sentences and yet, this book does just that, through the scattered thoughts of a nine year old boy, and old man, and an old woman. It’s this distillation of emotions that sets this books apart from others into a category of raw and pure writing.

Notably, this and extremely well written novel but evidently, also a well edited one. It is the first novel that I have read that directly represents the characters feelings or thoughts through intermittent graphics (apart from The Invention of Hugo Cabret) and although some reviews found it useless, adding nothing to the plot, I found that it was helpful and gave me insight into the way the characters thought and acted.

Overall, this novel was entertaining and educated me on the truths of experiences of New Yorkers in the 9/11 attacks – some of which I was completely unaware of, and opened me up to a new level of emotional writing with both depth and flair.

Fahrenheit 451 :: Ray Bradbury

It is a classic, that I know. It marked the beginning of the lovable genre of Science Fiction but apart from these limited, loose facts my knowledge about this novel prior to my reading it, was at best, rudimentary. Admittedly, I was doubtful about the usefulness of reading it. At first, the title didn’t really speak to me. I mean, it’s an extremely high temperature measure but apart from that, I gathered nothing (being the dimwitted girl I am).

Boy was I in for a surprise.

As a science-fiction/dystopian novel, it had the tell-tale cautionary aspect in the narrative, hinted at throughout the book. What I interpreted, is the repeating of mistakes previously made. The war, although not highly prominent in the book, recalls the wars we have had in the past and the wars we currently wage and to hear this message from a book set in the future, reflects our nature and the way we think. As a collective, we cannot stop making the same mistakes over and over again, and personally, an an individual neither can I.

The writing style of book is simply divine. Subtle, descriptive but not over the top, detailed enough to paint a picture, detailed enough to let the imagination run wild…you can tell I’m in love :) In particular, Beatty’s speeches are highly entertaining and in some cases, quite closely reflects the society we live in today – I have to say that I expected this but didn’t realise the significance of the similarities until after I finished the book.

It is a novel about burning books and of course the inevitable quotes to other texts cropped up continually. Having not had an extensive reading history myself, most of these went right over my head and yet, I still understood the underlying meaning of the text.

I also think it’s interesting that the books themselves are not deemed important by the ‘educated’ of the society. It is their content and the knowledge that it carries as opposed to the physicality of it. This idea connects to the importance of books (giving us experiences and knowledge without us, as the audience, having to actually read it) but also links to a popular source of conversation in the society of 2012. With the rising popularity of the Kindle and other e-book readers, has come the rising indignation from the book-lovers and library goers of our community, who adore the smell, the flipping of pages, the holding, the folding and the idle browsing in libraries like old friends. I have to say, I don’t share these feelings (you can see them in action here and here) but I am on the fence on this matter.

With all this in mind, let me tell you this – Fahrenheit 451, must be read – but be prepared to read between the lines as well. One must be prepared to submit to the desire to eagerly deciphering metaphors when one reads the likes of Ray Bradbury ;)